Date Published:2012 Aug
During development, signaling pathways specify cell fates by activating transcriptional programs in response to extracellular signals. Extensive studies in the past 30 years have revealed that surprisingly few pathways exist to regulate developmental programs and that dysregulation of these can lead to human diseases, including cancer. Although these pathways use distinct signaling components and signaling strategies, a number of common themes have emerged regarding their organization and regulation in time and space. Examples from Drosophila, such as Notch, Hedgehog, Wingless/WNT, BMP (bone morphogenetic proteins), EGF (epidermal growth factor), and FGF (fibroblast growth factor) signaling, illustrate their abilities to act either at a short range or over a long distance, and in some instances to generate morphogen gradients that pattern fields of cells in a concentration-dependent manner. They also show how feedback loops and transcriptional cascades are part of the logic of developmental regulation.